Helpful Tips and Insights: Correctly Showing Your Horse at Halter by AQHA Judge Mark Sheridan

March 12th, 2014 11:42 AM | No Comments

First published in 2014 March issue of Show Horse Today magazine

By Mark Sheridan

Photo ©

Photo ©

After a few months, I’m back in front of the computer writing articles on some interesting topics that I feel will help people who are constantly seeking knowledge about training or showing their horses. Spending a lot of time showing and judging at quite a few shows, I get many ideas for articles from the questions I receive from exhibitors. At the end of long day of judging, I like to take time to note the thoughts and ideas I encounter during the day that would be helpful information to competitors to make their chances of winning in the arena easier, more fun and simple. 

As I’ve mentioned in previous articles, when I’m judging I often find myself wanting to give a variety of clinics so I can help everyone who brings a horse to me for evaluation, regardless of the event in which they are showing. Unfortunately that is not an option, as clinics and judging are two separate areas. However, they both require education, and this is where I can hopefully give some positive feedback and give back to the industry that I love so much and which has allowed me to make a living teaching horses and people. 

This article will help those who are showing their horses in Halter competition. The new class of Performance Halter has hit most of the breeds over the last few years. In addition, versatility ranch classes and various competitions require showing your horse at Halter for breed and open shows, and there has been a major increase in people exhibiting their horses in Halter and Conformation classes. Most of the tips in this article will help make your experience in Halter more enjoyable and more competitive. Most importantly, it will give you the tools that will make it easier for the judges to place you closer to the top of the class. 

One thing to keep in mind is that the Halter class is usually in the morning. It is a great way to make a positive first impression with the judge. You want what you show to the judge to say, “Look at me and my horse close up; see that we are the best in the class and you are going to be seeing a lot more of us throughout the day.”  This starts with a smile and a confident look. Seeing a person having fun and enjoying what they are doing has a positive impact on other people, and in this case, the judges. Do your best to make a positive and confident impression on the judges and try to get in the arena first if there is not a work order. If there is a work order for the class, make sure that you are ready to go when it is your time to enter the arena. 

Reading your rule book in detail and knowing all of the rules is one of the most important things that exhibitors can do to help their chances of success. Every breed association or club will have rules that will be enforced regarding lip chains, class procedures, and how the class will be judged. There are many rules that change from year to year, and judges are required to keep up on them. Class procedures are important, and make sure to always give the ring stewards, and gate people the courtesy that they deserve. Many of the show staff are volunteers or underpaid but provide an invaluable service to the shows; they deserve respect from exhibitors, judges, and everyone involved. 

Know your equipment rules, and make certain that your halter and leads are properly adjusted and fitted to your horse. Be sure that your halter is pulled up and fitted so that it is not hanging loose on your horse’s head.  As a judge, I see this at every show on quite a few horses and it makes me want to walk up and tighten up the halter myself so that the horse’s head looks better. It is fine to have halters on a little loose at home when you get a horse out of the stall to saddle them up, but when showing at halter it is important to snug them up and create that clean look. I also want to note that the chains need to be sturdy chains and not the smaller chains I often see that look like chains one would use to walk their dog.  It is not so important that the halter has an abundance of silver, but that it fits well. We are judging your horse, not the halter. Just make sure your halter is clean, well made, and fits your horse properly. Do your research and find companies or saddle makers that specialize in quality hand made show halters.  The well-fitted halter on your horse is just as important as how well your hat is shaped.   

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